My Mum came back from Canada this afternoon, her suitcase stuffed with small leftovers from Zaida’s apartment. I unzipped the small side pockets and pulled out fat envelopes, bursting with old photos, their scalloped edges giving away their age. It was strange looking through them. My grandad’s entire life could be seen in just a few of them: from his baby photo, to his yearbook entry; days in the war; his wedding; anniversaries; children’s weddings; holidays. The oldest photos were tiny; no bigger than postage stamps. As the dates on the bottom increased, so did the size; the paper became thinner and glossier and the colours more lifelike. I felt like I was watching a life in fast forward.
I dumped them all in a plastic bag when I was done, sticking the fresh newspaper with his eulogy in it on top. And now I’m sitting here, writing to about it, when I should just be going to bed.
Last night, as it was Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day, I sang ‘Boro Sukher Khabor Ghai’ and ‘Nitai Guna Mani’ with my Dad. It was a nice enough day at the temple, but I came home feeling unsatisfied. Sometimes festival days are so predictable. I know what will happen, and in what order (and not just because it’s posted on the temple noticeboard). There’s comfort in predictability, but I think it’s a bad thing if the routine is not a particularly helpful one. I wish there were more constructive ways to serve or remember Krishna on festival days, in the wider context of the community. There’s so much joy in performing service together – even the most menial things. Maybe all it takes is someone to organise it and actually ask people to take part. I guess I just get frustrated when I feel like it’s all too much of a social event. I love to be with my friends, and talk, and have fun, but I think that festival days should be more than that. Anyway, it’s late now and I’m just rambling. My original point was that I sang the bhajans with my dad later at home – it was so nice. The words of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Narottama Dasa Thakura, Locana Das Thakura…the list could go on – they are one of my greatest sources of inspiration. In that brief half an hour, singing about how Lord Nityananda eagerly tries to sell the holy name, to whoever will have a little faith; how he cuts down the boundaries of the channel of love of God, allowing it to splash freely from house to house…in that half an hour I understood more than I had all day, going through the motions in the morning program and eating the feast.
The truth is
One day this life will be contained
Within the moving walls
Of a plastic bag
Dear Lord Nityananda
I wish I was humble enough to see
That I am not even fit to call myself
But I am happily blind to the fact
Feasting and laughing
And enjoying life in any way I can
Please find that golden speck of truth and sincerity
Down in the dark depths of my well-like heart
That speck is my eternal soul
The soul that knows
that you are my only source of peace
Please catch my moments of clarity
Fuzzy as they are
And know, that I really mean it
When I say I want your mercy.
Or at the very least,
I know that I want to want it.
Really really want it.
Is that enough?
I have lived for so long
How many plastic bags have I filled,
in attics and cupboards
across the world?
How many times have I spoken prayers like this,
with so little faith?
If nothing else,
I pray to eternally chant your name,
who I really am.
I pray to follow you from a distance,
even if I don’t deserve to.
perhaps in a few more lifetimes of plastic bags
and faded photos,
I can come home,
at your lotus feet.